22 February 2015

That one time I was nominated for Funniest Sewing Blog 2015

Funny old thing, this blogging business. Business, as in "matter", not business, as in profit-generating (or losing) as I don't earn anything from writing in this space - yet. Unless it is in my dreams and then I do this as my full-time job with a six-figure salary affording me ample time to buy limitless amounts of fabric where I'll sit at my sewing machine bathed in golden rays of sunlight and beam beatifically at my immaculately-dressed children wearing outfits that I have made for them, who are busying themselves with their own crafts because they understand the importance of never interrupting their mother when she is creating.

I was looking through my stats page on Thursday night to see how many vampirestat.com robots or some other such spammy links had crawled around the internet to find me that week when I noticed a link that was quite suspicious by the very virtue of how normal it looked. So, I clicked on it and like an internet version of Narnia, a whole other world of sewing blogs opened up before me.

Somehow, I was nominated for a blog award that I had never heard of before on a blog that I never knew existed. I did make this announcement on Facebook, but I think it is worthy of its own blog post because, really, I'm still a little bit chuffed about it and it just serves to highlight how random blogging can be. Even when you think no-one is reading, somebody probably is.

Now, don't laugh - actually, you can laugh because I did. I ended up on the list of Madalynne's Best Sewing Blog nominees for 2015. Not only that, I was nominated in the Funniest Sewing Blog category, which, naturally, is the category everyone wants to win. Let that sink in for a minute. Come to my place to be entertained to disguise the fact that I can't really sew anything technically challenging. Maybe 'funny' has a different meaning in US English and it actually means completely delusional about one's creative talents combined with neurotic episodes - in which case, I am hilarious.

So surprised was I to see my blog on the list, I wondered if there had been a mistake. I even took a screenshot of the list of nominees in case I received an email apologizing for their mistake and I could wave it in their virtual faces and say "I was nominated for an award that nobody actually cares about that gets tacked on at the end of the awards ceremony when all the major winners have collected their trophies and are getting drunk at the bar and even the cleaners have gone home - I've got the proooooof!". I may even have printed out that screenshot and placed it in a sealed envelope for a time when I can reenact the winner's announcement - except this time, it's my name in lights.
So, no, I didn't win the category - but I was in some impressive company. I still can't believe somebody liked my blog enough to nominate me for this.

How many of you have heard of Madalynne's blog? I hadn't before Thursday night, and like many other new (to me) blogs on the awards list, I am in complete love with her whole blog. She makes bras and plays around with lace and elastic and other scary stuff. It's a visual symphony really so even though I was unaware of these awards, the list serves as a great reference point to discover other really great blogs. And, yes, it does feel pretty nice to be featured alongside some major players in the sewing world.

Thank you to that person who waded through all of the blogs on the nominees list and still had enough energy to click on my blog name otherwise I would have missed out on the biggest bellylaugh I have had in ages.

One thing that struck me about the Madalynne Best Sewing Blog Awards is that the Kiwi sewing blogs are a bit thin on the ground. I went through the entire list and found one other - two if you count the blogger who has a Kiwi husband. Now, I know there are plenty of amazing bloggers in our neck of the woods, and there were even one or two surprise international omissions (in my opinion).

I just want to acknowledge all the other blogs out there that I love and enjoy visiting (you know who you are because I leave comments) and that I think are worthy contenders to make such a shortlist so this non-award is as much yours as it is mine.

It made me think we need to highlight our own homegrown talent more. Which New Zealand sewing-related blog do you love to read and why? Feel free to leave a comment so others can find them.

14 February 2015

Keeping it simple

I am scared of many things, some rational, others not so much. A non-exhaustive list for your viewing pleasure:
- spiders
- tsunami
- skinny jeans
- snakes
- Donatella Versace
- hot yoga
- NZ Idol

Parenting is scary sometimes too. Wouldn't it be nice to go back to being children and leave all the tough decision-making to someone else?
Life can be hard, people - and for some of us, life is hard all of the time (relatively-speaking, we have it easier than most; there's two of us sharing the load and our children are all healthy, I'm just painting a picture here for you). There are so many pressures. The difference is that some parents are just better at hiding that pressure more than others. Even the ones who look like they've got it all together. It's all a front. They really don't. Isn't that a comforting thought? By becoming parents, we automatically increase that propensity to worry about whether we are making the right decisions in life because we are no longer responsible for just ourselves but for the lives of these little humans as well. What if we screw it all up for them? Will any bad decision mean their lives change irrevocably or worse, they will be forced to live at home with us forever??!


What I keep telling myself is that it pays not to overthink things. Simplified, parenting is 92% following your instinct, 5% feigned interest in your child's friends/activities/academic ability, 3% beer and wine. It's a walk in the park, really. It also helps to have siblings and friends who have already traveled a bit further along the parenting path to call on for advice.

Honestly, if I have done my job properly at all, my children will want to leave the family home. I hope that when that time comes, they will know that even if they didn't attend the most expensive schools or have private tuition for every single extra-curricular activity that all their friends are having, that they are still talented people with all the potential in the world. They may not get the latest gadgets just because or take overseas family holidays but they will know that, if they so choose, they still have just as much opportunity to do these things on their own later in life by working hard and saving for them. I hope that they will know that their mum and dad did the best they could to guide them and help them focus on the things that truly matter in life - family, friendship and treating others well. As we all are. Most of us. We're in this parenting thing together and we're all just trying to do what we think is best for our families. Sometimes, even though that path ahead may be unclear, we just need a little bit of faith that everything will all work out in the end.

11 February 2015

Dresses for Cambodia

Just when you thought this blog was turning into a travel diary, I will stun all my creative followers and write about this dress. Yes, another peasant dress to join the multitudes already out there. But, this one is slightly different in that there is an important reason behind making it. I first read about the Dresses for Cambodia project on Sophie Slim's blog. Sophie is the architect behind another great social cause, The Sisterhood, and her generosity of spirit is pretty infectious. I wanted to join in with her latest initiative immediately but because life is feeling pretty full at the moment, I haven't been able to take on as many voluntary sewing-related requests and I decided I wouldn't commit to this one - until I remembered that I had a half-finished dress hanging in my sewing space. It just needed the butterfly sleeves to be finished and hemmed so this really was a very quick project in the end and gave me the motivation I needed to complete the dress.

My model was not feeling particularly cooperative but I hope you get a sense of the summery feel of the yellow floral print voile fabric, which is very light. The only misgiving I have about it is because the fabric is quite sheer, I had lined it with grey cotton so I wonder if it will be slightly too hot to wear in the Cambodian climate. Still, it will join the other items of clothing that will be sent over there in May and I hope whoever wears it will love it no matter what.

If you would like to take part in Sophie's quest to dress some street children, head over to her blog.

10 February 2015

Mangakuri Beach

We thought we'd done all the tripping around the island we were going to do for this summer, but an opportunity came up to spend the recent long weekend at a beach in the Hawke's Bay. My husband and I have only been over to the eastern coast of the North Island a handful of times and the girls have never been so we grabbed the chance to stay in a bach overlooking Mangakuri Beach.

As I understand it, Mangakuri means black dog. I think the beach name sounds nicer in Māori. For those who have never been there before, it is roughly a five hour car-ride from Wellington allowing for carsickness and hungry children. The time passes quickly though when enjoying the lovely view of the passing countryside is no longer sufficient and I get to answer pertinent questions like "Will there be a washing line?" and "Will I be chased by a bear?".

Turning off State Highway 2 at Waipawa, we drove through the beautiful, but dry Hawke's Bay countryside with rolling hills and sheep farms as far as the eye could see. The road followed the very scenic Tukituki River for a while and eventually we wound our way down some gravel roads to the small beachside community of Mangakuri. A sprinkling of baches are separated from the beach by a narrow lane and some coastal grass. It is only 40 minutes from the nearest town for supplies, but it really felt in the middle of nowhere. The isolation of this beach is all part of the appeal.

We were so lucky to be lent this bach for three nights (thank you A and M). It was in fairly original condition and full of curios and charm. Naturally, I had to take some photos of it.

When we arrived, it was getting close to dark and so cold, much colder than I was expecting (and I had packed for summer weather). The next day was not much better with a southerly blowing and the threat of rain, and I spent a good part of the day huddled in the bach with a blanket pulled around me. The brazier on the verandah was a very welcome friend and we used it to cook our evening meals. The girls didn't really feel the cold as much as I did during the day but each night, I found one or two of them had crept into our bed with their stone-cold feet pressed up against me.
There was no tv, no cellphone reception and nothing to fill our days except to explore the surrounding area, play darts, read and play games on the laptop, thanks Wifi. Laying in bed on our first night there, I listened to the loud, unfamiliar sound of the waves hitting the beach and realized it had been years since I had heard that simple, rhythmic sound without the chatter of people, cars or even wind to dull its noise.
The southerly wind finally died down enough on our final day for everyone to stay on the beach for longer than a few minutes. We even broke out the cricket set for a bit until the lure of the water became too much for the girls.

I have always had a healthy respect for the sea ever since I got caught in a rip as a teenager, so I don't go into the surf past my knees anymore, unless I am feeling really brave from seeing other people swimming out further than me. I try not to foist my own fear onto my children, but when I see them going in too far for my liking I call them back, much to their great annoyance. I always wonder what I would do if they all got swept out and I was forced to make a decision on who I'd concentrate my energies on to try and rescue. It's a horrible thought, so on my watch, the girls are only allowed to go into the surf up to their knees too. Interestingly, I read this article before we travelled away and only just realized the incident happened at this very beach.
The beach itself is rockier than I was expecting, although there is meant to be a safe swimming spot with no rocks further north from where our bach was located but we were happy just to explore around our little patch. The soft golden sand is always a nice departure from the black ironsand beaches we are used to.

Living where we do in Wellington surrounded by hills, seeing the sun and moon rise over the ocean is pretty unforgettable. The light from the morning sun on our final day at the beach cast everything in this beautiful golden hue, I was so glad I got up early to take these photos. I was the only one on the beach that morning apart from a few seagulls and it was so warm even at 6.30am. This is the view to the north, and the second photo looks south towards Pourerere.

We may never get another chance to return to this particular beach, but I hope that the girls will always remember that this was the place where they first played in the Pacific.